Obama Taps Google, Microsoft Execs for Tech Advisors

Ariana Rodriguez
WASHINGTON — Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Microsoft chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie were among the 10 appointees for the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, announced Monday by President Barack Obama.

The PCAST is an advisory group of the nation’s top scientists and engineers from outside the federal government to provide expertise and advice on matters of science and technology policy.

Because Google and Microsoft have stated support of Net neutrality, a principle that says Internet providers can’t discriminate online content based on its source, ownership or destination, some speculate that the execs’ new roles put them in a place of influence to favor keeping the Internet free and open.

Google’s efforts to maintain Net neutrality include entering with broadband providers into edge-caching agreements, which involves temporarily storing frequently accessed data on servers close to its users — servers Google offers to collocate within broadband providers’ facilities.

After drawing criticism, Google’s Washington, D.C., telecom and media counsel Richard Whitt defended edge caching in a June 2007 blog, stating “these solutions help broadband providers by minimizing the need to send traffic outside of their networks and reducing congestion on the Internet's backbones. In fact, caching represents one type of innovative network practice encouraged by the open Internet."

After withdrawing from the now-defunct It’s Our Net coalition in October 2006, Microsoft spokesperson Ginny Terzano restated the company’s support for net neutrality with a company announcement.

“Microsoft continues to support consumer net neutrality rights, and it has long supported the ability of broadband providers to offer tiers of service and other enhancements,” she said.

Nevertheless, PCAST serves as an advisory body only, meant to assist the White House in formulating policies regarding science and technology. In addition, Schmidt’s ties as an adviser to the Obama campaign and member of the Transition Economic Advisory Board also have been pointed out as already having access to pitch Net neutrality.

Others appointed to the advisory board include President of Yale University Richard Levin, University of California, San Diego professor of chemistry and biochemistry Mario Molina, and retired general manager of Technology Partnerships at Honeywell, Inc., Maxine Savitz.